In the movie Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton's character, Truvy, claims she hasn't left the house without pantyhose on since she was 14 years old. To this her friend Clairee confirms, "You were raised right!"
Does this make you cringe, or raise your white-gloved fist in prim solidarity?
Generation X women came of age on the cusp of the change in dress code attitudes, balancing on the cotton crotch of the Great Pantyhose Divide. We grew up when hose were still the norm, but we entered the professional world realizing we weren't so keen on spending our paychecks on clothing that had a life span of about 2 wearings. When casual Fridays became popular the first thing we tossed were the pantyhose. And yet, I still struggle with "appropriate" times to wear them, much as I struggle just to put on the blessed things.
On Friday I had a job interview, and while dressing I once again pondered my bare legs with apprehension. My stylish-yet-conservative dress fell just above the knee--the norm for me at just shy of 6 feet tall. I worried it was too informal this way. Surely the second skin of some L'eggs would solve this problem and make my ensemble more...respectable.
This is where it gets weird.
Why do pantyhose equal "respectable"?
Why did I think that going bare-legged would somehow negate the validity of my master's degree and corporate experience? Why did I place so much weight on the power of an ounce of woven nylon? Years and years of condemnation from older generations, that's why. Gen X girls were taught that to be perceived as mature, professional, and/or proper we must wear pantyhose. Without question.
I worked my way through college in about 20 different retail jobs. Most of them required me to wear pantyhose. At least one even prohibited us girls from wearing pants. That was 1992.
But we have a powerful woman on OUR side now. Our own First Lady, Michelle Obama (by broadest definition a member of Generation X herself), has been quite vocal in her disdain for pantyhose. As a guest on The View she said, "I stopped wearing pantyhose a long time ago. They're painful...it's inconvenient."
She garnered some vitriolic backlash from this comment, being called everything from "unfeminine" to "vulgar" because of it. Crazy, isn't it?
So I'm taking a stand, a bare-legged stand. Those pantyhose I wore to my interview, the ones that caused my shoes to fit too loosely and hence fly off my left foot in the lobby of said interview, they are history! Those fancy silk-like pantyhose that cost $8.95 a pair and still rip when I barely bump them with a hangnail...history! I'm done with you, you antiquated casings of synthetic torture. I refuse to allow my character to be judged (real or imagined) by the presence or absence of some Underalls. The debate continues, but I'm standing with the First Lady on this one.